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      Helm of the Tactician

      Helm of the Tactician

      Kam and Simon scaled the jagged mountain path, digging into every nook they could find because just one misstep is all that stood between them and a one way trip into the void. When they finally made it to the top of the trail the air was thick with smoke. With every fiber in their being telling them to turn back, the two marched through the 100-foot dragon skeleton bridge.

      As Kam and Simon walked deeper into the Dragon Clan’s territory they heard the booming of a rolling thunder. The wind began gusting in every direction, increasing in magnitude and then all went calm. The sky grew dark as a thunder of dragons swooped down from the clouds surrounding Kam and Simon. The largest dragon stood with its wings spread, “You have come far enough human.

      You have journeyed further than any of the other clans ever dared to, for this I will commend your bravery and allow you to speak your purpose.” Kam looked around at the legendary Dragon Clan surrounding them. These were the ones who taught the other clans how to harness the elements and instructed them in the ways of mana. Kam knew if his plan failed there would be no chance of them walking out alive. He inhaled deeply, “We challenge you for title of chieftain and leadership of your clan!” Simon couldn’t tell if the dragons were laughing or cursing them in their ancient language.

      “You foolish little whelps, here we thought after all these years of watching the clans fail to journey this far in search of our teaching we finally had new apprentices. We will never accept your challenge. Now be gone or else you will be fed to our young.” Kam turned to the other dragons watching, “We didn’t come this far to learn what we already know“, and Kam released a deep sigh and stretched his hand towards the sky. The sky turned black and the gentle breeze turned into vicious vortex around the dragons.

      The winds grew so strong even the dragon chieftain had to brace himself. While he was channeling the elemental force in his right hand, Kam began channeling arcane magic into the earth. As Kam channeled his arcane magic into the earth a 30-foot golem rose. With his entire right arm now shining with power Kam slammed his fist into the ground, sending a bolt of thunder crashing down into the arcane golem. Dumbfounded the dragons roared out, “Blasphemy! It’s an abomination! Impossible!” The dragon chief stepped forward, “Human, how were you able to enhance the power of arcana with the elemental force?! In all our teaching never have we been able to tap into both at the same time.”

      Kam and Simon stepped in front of the elemental-arcane golem, “How doesn’t matter. Do you accept our challenge?” Gathering its composure the dragon chief responded, “As impressive of a feat that was, we still will not accept your challenge. Leave these lands and never return.” Kam turned to the dragons, “I thought the dragon clansmen were proud warriors and never retreated from a challenge. Maybe all of those legends were just lies covering the truth, that you all are just overgrown lizards.”

      With his eyes wide Simon turned to Kam, “Are you sure you should be antagonizing them like this? I’m normally down for a fight against odds and everything, but THESE ARE DRAGONS WE’RE DEALING WITH!” Kam looked back over his shoulder to Simon, “Relax Simon I got this.” Kam locked eyes with the dragon chieftain, “Their laws prevent them from harming anyone from another clan outside of a challenge. Isn’t that right Chief?”

      The dragon chief’s eyes grew wide and it began trembling with rage, “HOW DARE YOU MOCK US CHILD?!” The dragons’ snapped and cracked their tails against the floor, splitting the earth beneath them. “Do you accept our challenge then or do you fear us?” “You insufferable, clawless mortals do you truly think WE would fear such a frail being such as yourselves?!

      Only challenges spoken in the ancient tongue will be accepted! And seeing that you are not our kin you will never be able to truly challenge us. NOW BE GONE!” Kam smirked with a villainous grin, “So that’s all it takes?” Kam shouted the challenge again, but this time in the ancient draconic language known only to the dragons. “H-how?!

      Where did you learn our tongue?”

      “DO YOU ACCEPT?!”

      “…Yes, we accept your challenge young ones.”

      Helm of the Conqueror

      Helm of the Conqueror

      Kam grasped Simon by the shoulders, “It’s all on you now Simon, you have to bring it home. All that training, practice, experience and skills you’ve developed all for this moment.

      You got this, there’s nobody else I’d trust to do this but you.” Simon patted Kam on the shoulder as he made his way to the arena. Stopping at the entrance Simon turned to back to Kam, “I really gotta stop letting you talk me into this stuff”, Simon chuckled as he walked into the blinding light where he stood face to face with the Dragon Clan Chieftain, Glaezan. Glaezan, towering over Kam and Simon by twenty feet stooped down to Simon, “I don’t know how you two learned to speak our tongue, but you will soon come to regret it.”

      Time seemed to stop as Simon loosened his muscles. Simon felt the weight of what was riding on his shoulders with every step he took towards the center of the arena “Look forward. Don’t think or look at the hundred other dragon clansmen watching. You just gotta get this big guy to surrender or else he’s going to eat you and probably set Kam on fire for that little stunt Kam pulled earlier.” Simon shook his head, “Come on Simon! Focus! Kam doesn’t take risks he knows he can’t win.”

      Simon looked up at the Dragon Chieftain, “How we learned it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that by the end of day you will bow before me as the new chief.” Infuriated Glaezan swung at Simon with his massive tail, smashing the pillars and statues around the arena before slamming into Simon. As the dust settled Simon stood tall with blood trickling over his eye and down his neck to his arms, which were wrapped around Glaezan’s tail.

      Simon chuckled as the dragons watching roared out in shock. “My turn”, Simon mumbled. He tightened his grip, squeezing the dragon’s scaly tail as he began to swing the dragon chief around the arena slowly picking up speed before throwing him into the pillars of the arena. Glaezan stumbled to his feet, still in shock from being thrown across the arena by such a tiny foe. “In all my years of being Dragon Chieftain never have I met such a worthy opponent.

      Little one as a sign of respect to your strength I shall come at you with my full strength.” Glaezan began brimming with light until his whole body was illuminated. The dragon chieftain began to shrink into the form of a 12-foot anthromorphic dragonkin. “Worry not little one, I’m not giving you a handicap but rather showing you my full strength in this condensed form.”

      Simon wiped the blood from his brow, “Thank you for your sign of respect, but that still isn’t going to change the outcome of this match.” Simon and Glaezan both chuckled, “Oh, is that so human? Then show me your resolve!” Simon cracked a grin, “Gladly.” Simon and Glaezan wasted no time before clashing with each other in the center of the arena. The two fighters matched each other blow for blow, with each hit shaking the arena.

      Stumbling back to catch his breath Simon slipped, creating an opportunity for Glaezan to wrap his tail around Simon. With his arms pinned down by Glaezan’s tail, Simon was defenseless as Glaezan unleashed a barrage of attacks. After turning Simon into a human punching bag Glaezan spun around and launched Simon into the pillars at the other side of the arena.

      Seeing Simon’s broken body under a mountain of rubble Glaezan was assured of his victory and turned towards Kam, “I warned you but just like mortals, you rush to your deaths in seek of hope.” Simon dug his feet into the ground, closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting it fill his body before exhaling with his head turned towards the sky. The dirt at his feet began blowing around him, gradually developing into a vortex.

      Simon lowered his head until he locked eyes with Kam, who stood across the arena, looking as shocked as the rest of the dragons watching the vortex around Simon begin to glow with brilliant hues of amber and gold. “Guessing this wasn’t part of your calculations, huh, Kam” Simon chuckled, “Now where were we, Chieftain?” Glaezan shook with terror before he charged towards Simon with another flurry of attacks that hit only air.

      Simon retaliated with a series of combos, each of which left Glaezan gasping as the air left his body. Staggering and breathing heavily, Glaezan managed to stay on his feet but Simon knew he was at his limits. “It ends here, Chief!” Simon shouted as his fist began glowing like a hunk of red-hot ore. Glaezan tried bracing himself, but it was of no use. Simon’s punch broke through the dragon’s guard and sent him flying into the walls of the arena.

      When the dust settled Simon walked over to the wall where Glaezan’s body was stuck. On the verge of losing consciousness, Glaezan pried himself from the wall and fell to his knees before Simon, “I-I submit…. Chieftain.”

      Gamer's Paradise: The Noob

      Gamer's Paradise: The Noob

      Struggling to get the Codex of Amingaar to open, Kam began to wonder if it was broken during his encounter with those bandits from the Pig Clan. Kam quickly shut that idea out of his head because if it was true, if the artifact he spent so long searching and preparing for had broken, Kam would lose it. Battling the urge to just give up, Kam noticed Simon was back from his mission to defend Jungle Village. “Yo Kam I’m back, didn’t get much XP this go round. How’d you do on your little research quest?” Kam turned to Simon with a look of disappointment, “Yo. It was cool until I got ambushed by some bandits. I found the Codex of Amingaar, but think it got messed up when I fought those bandits and now I’m back at square one cause this thing won’t open up.”

      “Oh that sucks, but in other news check out his ocarina some dragonlings gave me! I’ve been practicing the whole way back” Simon began playing beautiful melodic notes from a dragon tooth ocarina. The ocarina’s musical melodies caused the codex to glow like a star. Kam jumped back with amazement, “Simon! How’d you do that?!” Simon looked down at his dragon-tooth ocarina, “I-I don’t know. I just started playing some notes and boom your broken toy starts spinning and glowing.” As Simon stopped playing, the Codex dimmed back to its original state and Kam’s joyful expression quickly turns sour, “Wait what did you do? Why isn’t it glowing? Keep playing! Keep playing!”  

      Startled Simon fumbled with his ocarina before playing again. As the room filled with the blissful melodies from Simon’s ocarina, the Codex began lighting up again. As the music swirled about Kam’s lab the Codex began humming as it made several jerking and twisting motions before shooting beams of light onto the walls. Kam’s mouth fell open as he jumped for joy, “YES! THIS IS IT! The ancient text! The forgotten languages! They’re all here!” Kam ran and gave Simon the biggest bear hug, “Simon you genius! I don’t know how but you always manage to save the day!” Kam still brimming with joy, “Where’d you even get the skills to play that?” Simon just grinned and shrugged, “It’s what I do.”

      Gamer's Paradise: The Grind

      Gamer's Paradise: The Grind

       

      Kam's Data log 271: I was so close to a breakthrough today. I feel myself growing stronger every day.

      Kam's Data log 332: After almost destroying the lab a couple of times I can now channel the elements with less fatigue than before. I’ve developed a sensor to determine how much of the elemental force I can harness before complete failure kicks in.

      Kam's Data log 364: I’ve been holding my arcana shield for 3 hours now and after weeks of trials I can finally generate it without incantations; now I need to find a way to do it on a subconscious level. If I’m to go on my search to find the artifact I must prepare for every threat possible, no matter how unlikely it seems.

      Kam's Data log 397: I’ve mastered the art of channeling the elemental force through my hands and can now perform spells of the arcana through thought. I’m finally ready to embark on my quest; I’ve pinpointed the ruins of Drazlow. I should be back before Simon finishes his mission to defend the Jungle Village.

      Kam's Data log 399: I found it! After all this time I finally found it, the Codex of Amingaar. I’ll have to do some restoration spells on it though, the symbols got a little scuffed up during my encounter with those bandits from the Boar Clan. I told them I was only there to conduct research on the ruins. The five of them began circling me and at that point I realized there was only one way out. I activated my arcana shield and offered them one last out. I told them we could avoid this altercation and part ways amicably, but the simpletons somehow took my peace offering as a sign of disrespect. They said I thought I was better than them just because I knew a couple fancy spells and don’t take mud baths. The next thing I know, the bandit leader charged towards me shouting, “SOOO-IEEEE! Let’s get ‘em boys!” and swung at me with his great-axe, but was only left dumbfounded when his mighty axe shattered against my arcana shield. Surrounded, I knew I had to act quickly but this was precisely what I had trained for. My hands instinctively began weaving the signs to channel the elemental force causing bolts of lightning to shoot down from the heavens. This threw the four remaining bandits off guard enough for me to charge up a fair amount of energy. I slammed the ground with my fist, cracking open the earth beneath the bandits sending them to a magma bath. Stumbling with fear their leader tried escaping, but I raised a wall to cut off his path, then three more to encase him in a 20-foot prison of earth and stone.

      Kam's Data log 400: I’ve gone through every spell I know and I still can't open the Codex. It seems that whoever sealed the Codex of Amingaar went through some serious trouble to keep whatever is in here a secret. One way or another I will uncover the truth of this land.

      Gamer's Paradise: The XP

      Gamer's Paradise: The XP

       

      One thousand feet above the meadows of SclObonia, a bank of blood thirsty and starving wyverns circle above the outskirts of Jungle Village. Holding on to the back spikes of the alpha wyvern leading the bank, Simon digs into his pack and pulls out a slingshot and a couple balls of wire. “Man, I hope Kam was right about this”, Simon murmurs as he ties the balls of wire to a few barbed-bulbs. Slowing his breath, Simon loads the sling and fires a bulb at each of the wyverns. Extremely agitated, the bank of wyverns begins diving down to the surface. Simon quickly grabs the detonator from his pack. “Here goes nothing”, he yells as he flips the switch. A high pitch frequency emits from each of the bulbs, shooting bolts of electricity down the wires electrocuting the bank of wyverns. Simon glances back and sees the heap of freshly barbecued wyverns plummet to their death. “Alright big guy it’s your turn now”, Simon shouts as he twirls his greatsword in the air before plunging it into the wyvern’s spinal cord. Simon leaps from the lifeless wyvern as it crashes to the ground and shatters into pixels, “Sweet! That makes 22 dire boars, 9 wyverns and 3 cockatrices. After I turn this stuff in I should definitely have enough XP to level up.”

      Walking back into town with a pack full of dire boar tusks and wyvern claws, Simon notices a crowd causing a commotion near the inn. Curious, Simon strolled over and was shocked to see a member of the Tiger Clan and whelps from the Dragon Clan being pelted with fruits and stones. Instinctively, Simon dropped his pack of trophies and jumped in front of the growing mob, “What are you all doing?! These are children!”. Simon stood with his arms spread wide. “But they’re outsiders”, someone from the crowd responded, “Yeah they don’t belong here in Jungle Village.” Another voice cried out, “Why don’t you go back to your own clans?" Simon shook with rage. “Have you forgotten that I’m an outsider as well? Or does risking my life day in and day out to keep these beasts from wreaking havoc on your villages make you look past my lack of fur, claws, and scales”, Simon shouted, waving his bag of trophies at the villagers. Ashamed, the angered citizens averted their eyes to avoid Simon’s gaze and began leaving the scene.

      As the last few stragglers left Simon turned to the Tiger clansman, as she seemed to be the eldest of the group, “I’m sorry about that, the citizens around here haven’t had much experience with other clans. Are you their guardian?” Simon gestured towards the three young Dragons. “Thank you stranger. I am A’Rie, this is Taizin, Amonz, and Azhon. I found them wandering the sewers of my clan’s territory and have watched over them ever since.” Feeling pity for them Simon handed his pack of trophies to A’Rie, “Here take this. Turn these in to the innkeeper. She’ll pay you the reward for the trophies and give you a room to rest. It’ll also give you some leverage with the locals when they hear you four saved them from the wyverns.” Shocked at the stranger’s generous act, “Thank you! H-how can I ever repay you?” A’Rie asked. Simon smiled and began walking back the way he came. “The name’s Simon and don’t worry about it”, Simon shouted, waving them off with his back turned.

      “I thought things would be different here, but I guess some things are the same wherever you go” Simon muttered to himself. “Man, it’s going to take forever to farm all those claws and tusks again. Hopefully Kam had better luck with his quests.” As Simon reached the city gates, the three dragonlings caught up to him and handed him an ocarina in the shape of a dragon’s tooth, “This is for you. It is the only thing we have from the Dragon clan, but we’re Tiger clansmen now.” Touched by their appreciation, Simon used some of the leftover wire he had and fixed the ocarina into a necklace so he’d never lose it.